Matamata neighbours sick of seeing their local dairy getting robbed chased two robbers, yelling and swearing at them as they did.
One man, who asked not to be named, said he was watching TV when his mother saw a "couple of dodgy-looking guys" walk past.
One had a sweater pulled up over his face, the other had a beanie pulled down low and was carrying a weapon.
The man said the local Hampton Court Dairy had been robbed several times. Last year, owner Jack Shin installed an alarm after two men threatened him with a gun and knife.
The neighbour said he heard Mr Shin's alarm go off and knew what had happened.
"We saw these guys running past so we just got up off the couch and ran after them.
"We were about 5m away and I said that we should grab them but the guy I was with said, 'Nah, I don't want to get stabbed over a little robbery. We can keep following them so we know where they are at all times'."
Another man saw the drama unfolding, left his two preschoolers in the care of a neighbour and gave chase too.
A motorist saw the pursuit and parked his car in front of the robbers' vehicle to stop them from fleeing, forcing them to continue running down the street.
The pursuers followed the robbers to a carpark, where a black Nissan picked them up and sped off.
The first pursuer admitted he was scared, but thought "I'd help Jack. He's a good guy and everybody likes him."
The third man in the pursuit said that, "Looking back at what I did, it was pretty stupid. They might have been armed and I could have been pretty badly hurt. I was never going to catch them but I kept running anyway. I was pretty pissed off for Jack."
Sergeant Graham McGurk said the robbers' vehicle headed north on SH27, but members of the public had noted down the registration number and the police spotted it.
"The driver refused to stop and fled at speed, travelling about 42km, all the while throwing clothing and items taken in the robbery out of the car while a rear passenger attempted to get police to back off by pointing his imitation-firearm-cum-wrench out the window at following police."
The car was stopped near Pioneer Rd after Saturday's robbery and three boys aged 16 and 17 and a girl, 16, were arrested. They appeared in the Hamilton Youth Court yesterday charged with aggravated robbery. The driver faced additional charges.
Through limited English, Mr Shin said he saw two youths walk into his shop with what he thought was a gun. He immediately fled to the rear of his store and activated his alarm as the robbers took tobacco.
Mr McGurk said police were pleased to have a high level of support from locals but he urged people not to place themselves at risk.